The ability to share electronic medical records between providers is essential for the healthcare system to function effectively. Providers need to be able to communicate in order to offer the best possible care for their patients. However, more often than not, information transfers are blocked by healthIT developers or medical centers refusing to send records to their competition.
The incentive for hoarding data appears to be most closely related to the business aspect of healthcare. Companies lock their customers into expensive technology and charge excessive fees for sending or receiving patient information. Some hospitals refuse to share information with doctors outside of their network, fearing that they may lose the patient to a competitor. IT developers are charging exorbitant fees for sharing data or building interfaces with other systems. Many are refusing to recognize rival security measures. It is not unheard of for providers to block information either. By preventing the exchange of patient information, they can control referrals and strengthen their control over the market.
There are several ways to fight against information blocking. New transparency requirements are already in development, mandating that restrictions and costs associated with EHR systems be released. Some groups are also pushing for the federal government to participate by demanding that suspected wrongdoers explain their reasoning for blocking the transfer of data. Congress may take this one step further by passing a law that would penalize vendors and providers who deliberately block information sharing without a valid reason.
The federal government has invested over $28 billion to make the nationwide move toward electronic health records. More than half of the nation’s doctors have already adopted electronic health records and it would be a shame if limitations on their ability to send and receive patient records weakened these national attempts to improve the quality of care.
It is important for providers to meet their patient communities where they are. The United States healthcare industry is very diverse and the needs and capabilities required for technology may vary widely. Communities need to work together in order to move forward with the next phase of digital healthcare, making sure that health data is available for both patients and providers when and where it is needed most.
We have come a long way, but now it is time to take EHR to the next level by focusing our attention on interoperability. The true benefits of health IT can only be realized when we are able to simplify the care experience.
Author: Lauren Daniels